Monday, July 14, 2008

Exchanging Ideas

The Retailer Idea Exchange is always one of my favorite events at Short Course. It’s amazing the things you learn when a roomful of innovative garden retailers gather to share some of their best and worst ideas.

For the Idea Exchange, retailers from all over the country (and Canada, too) sat at different tables in the room, and no one from the same organization could be at the same table. The facilitators posed one question: What is the best marketing/promotion idea you’ve ever had and what is the worst?

My table didn’t even have a chance to discuss bad ideas – there were too many good ones. Here are just a few that we heard during the two-hour session:

One garden center opened a fourth location about 70 miles from its headquarters, and to solidify its place in the community, for three days the first week it was open, 20 percent of all sales went to the local City Rescue Mission. The garden center didn’t even have to advertise its good deed. The local radio and television stations promoted it for them.

Another garden center came up with a creative way to get rid of its tired pansies at the end of the season. The Pansies For Pets program benefits the local Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals (SPCA) chapter by donating $5 of each pansy flat sale during the promotion to the SPCA. In one weekend, the garden center sold 282 flats of tired pansies and got press on the local TV and radio stations, as well.

Another retailer had a great idea for simply getting customers in the store: a lunch & brunch. The garden center sold tickets at $20 a piece for a catered brunch that featured a fashion show. During the event, employees at the garden center modeled clothes from Coldwater Creek and also showcased products available for sale at the garden center. There were two seatings with 175 people each. At $20 a pop, this ended up being quite a profitable event for the garden center.

One garden center employee put her creativity to work, designing tags for mixed containers that featured a picture of the flower, along with a picture of the fertilizer the garden center recommends to go along with that container. These tags were printed on the garden center’s own Xerox printer and took only a couple of hours to create. The time and effort put into making the tags quickly paid for itself in the form of add-on fertilizer sales. Seeing the picture of the fertilizer bottle on the tag made it easy for customers to simply grab those products off the shelves.


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